Self-Care for Busy Caregivers

Bayshore | | Caregiver Support

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Are you, or do you know, a family caregiver? Chances are high that you answered “yes.”

Statistics Canada recently shared its findings about family caregivers, based on data collected for the 2018 General Social Survey – Caregiving and Care Receiving. One in four individuals aged 15 and older – that’s 7.8 million people – said that, within the past year, they had provided care to a family member or friend living with a long-term health condition, a physical or mental disability, or problems related to aging. The survey also asked how much time people devoted to caregiving responsibilities. Sixty-four per cent spent up to 10 hours a week, 15% spent 10 to 19 hours, and 21% spent 20 hours or more.

Taking care of another person is a rewarding but also physically and emotionally challenging role. A family caregiver’s tasks might include house cleaning, home maintenance and outdoor work, paying bills, scheduling and coordinating appointments, running errands, transportation, grocery shopping, meal preparation, assistance with eating, giving medicine, help with bathing and dressing, help with using the toilet, and more.

Over time, caregivers often feel stressed and burned out, especially if they’re handling the bulk of care or juggling additional demands, such as work, school and child care. While looking after someone else, caregivers’ own health – including physical fitness, eating habits and mental well-being – often goes on the back burner. In addition, caregivers can become isolated from friends and family.

Caregiving can also involve financial stress. Many family caregivers pay out-of-pocket costs, and working-age caregivers many lose income because they must take time off to provide care, usually for an aging parent.

Why self-care is essential

Engaging in self-care may seem low-priority – even frivolous – in the face of the many tasks that caregiving may require. However, taking care of yourself is what allows you to help others effectively – much like how, in an emergency, airplane passengers are asked to put on their own oxygen masks before assisting others.

Even if time is tight, it’s important to fit in small acts of self-care whenever possible. Here are some strategies to try:

  • Schedule it. Often, self-care is pushed aside because it has no specific date and time. Block off time, even just an hour, in your calendar. Treat it like you would an important appointment.
  • Ask for support. Who among your family and friends could pitch in with caregiving? What specific tasks could they do? People are often willing to help, but they don’t know what to offer.
  • Get organized. The home-organization gurus are right: your environment reflects your mental state, and vice versa. You’ll feel better if you have more space to breathe. Get started with our decluttering tips.
  • Exercise regularly. Physical activity is an excellent way to relieve stress, reduce anxiety and improve your outlook. (It’s also good for your brain.) Squeeze in small workouts daily, whether it’s a power walk, a yoga session or circuit training at the gym. You’ll feel better afterwards!
  • Improve your nutrition. Food, mood and energy levels are intricately linked, so it’s key to eat a healthy diet. Focus on mostly plant-based foods, as recommended by Canada’s Food Guide.
  • Express your feelings. When you’re stressed out, frustrated or depressed, writing in a journal can help you deal with your emotions. (If you’re struggling, consider seeking counselling.)
  • Treat yourself. Enjoy life’s little pleasures – coffee and cake at your local diner, a new haircut, a movie date with a friend. These are low-cost outings that will help you feel recharged.
  • Get more sleep. Many of us don’t get the shut-eye we need. To boost your chances, improve your sleep hygiene. Read our special sleep tips for caregivers.
  • Meditate. Take a few minutes, at least once a day, to centre yourself with meditation or breathing techniques. Learn tips for beginners.
  • See your doctor. When was your last physical exam? Have you gotten your flu shot? It’s important to maintain your own health and get recommended medical tests (such as pap smears for women and prostate checks for men).
  • Spend time with others. If possible, enjoy leisure time with friends or family members, even if it’s just enjoying a cup of tea while your senior loved one takes a nap.
  • Hire professional help. Home health care services are beneficial for many older adults and their caregivers. You may be surprised by the variety of services available, from companionship and housekeeping to meal preparation and personal grooming. Learn more.

Remember, taking time out for self-care is not just beneficial to you and the loved one you care for – it’s a necessity for mental and physical well-being. Treat yourself as well as you would treat a close friend.

Bayshore Home Health offers a wide range of home care services to help Canadians live independently for as long as possible. Contact us at 1-877-289-3997 for details.